Assam : Homeless In Their Own State

Presently Assam is battling two types of calamities. One, the floods which have recently occurred and two, the violence which erupted in July 2012. It is obvious that floods due to which 16 lakhs people of the State are affected and more than 2 lakhs people are staying in 160 relief camps are a natural calamity. This natural calamity seems to have coincided time-wise with violence. Floods occurred in 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2008, when the Bodos people and non-Bodos people started to create violence due to which 1,80,000 people were affected. In 2012 similar kind of violence erupted due to which 4,50,000 lakhs people were affected. Affected people were staying in the camps of the Bodosland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) formed in 2003. Today when we visit Assam, we find that the four letter word ‘CAMP’ has become an integral part of the people of the State. As far as the camps for the flood victims are concerned, they come into existence every year when flood occurs and are removed after a few months, but the camps which are organised due to violence between Bodos people and non-Bodos people don’t seem to end.
As far as the migrants of 1993 to 2008 are concerned, the Government hasn’t taken any decisive step for their return. Today they have only remained as homeless refugees in their own native place. In the mean time another generation of migrants has developed who haven’t seen their homes yet. The victims of the Nellie massacre of 1983 are still waiting for justice. This harsh truth is not hidden from anybody : even after 30 years of that massacre, a single person has not been punished yet.
A few people link the Assam problem with foreign insurgency. That is why from time to time lightning falls only on the ‘Bangladeshis.’ They were targeted in the past and this time also the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Assam Peoples Association are targeting them inside the BTAD and the Bodosland Territorial Council (BTC) is asking for land related documents from Bangladeshi immigrants. The actual motive behind this is that the immigrants who do not have documents would be declared as insurgents and not allowed to stay on. Recently, it was decided to send back 12,000 families, but according to BTC, only 3000 families were able to show the documents and that is why they were allowed to stay on. According to the Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, approximately 1.42 lakhs people remain in different camps of which the maximum are Bangladeshi Muslims. Gogoi also said that among them, 90,000 people have documents of lands. Gogoi is also saying that the remaining 52,000 people will be sent back on the basis of other evidences. It should be remembered that by the end of July 2012, the number of immigrants reached up to 4,46,108 in 277 camps, in which the number of Muslims were 3,15,874 in 199 camps, the number of Bodos people were 1,29,712 in 76 camps and the number of non-Bodos people was 522 in 2 camps. There is no doubt that it is largest dislocation since Independence. That is why it must be resolved soon.

The maximum number of Muslim immigrants in camps stay in the classrooms and courtyards of educational organisations, but neither is there bedding, nor are there lavatories/toilets and nor is there water for drinking and washing. There is shortage of utensils for cooking and eating and also of clothing. The condition of the children, women and elders is very miserable.

The Central and the State Government have clearly denied about the presence of illegal foreigners in the BTAD. They said that there is no foreigner/Bangladeshi present among the immigrants in the camps. The State Government has submitted a White Paper related to this issue in the Cabinet on 15 October 2012 and on 21 October 2012 it was released. Due to this the reality related to the foreign insurgents has come before the people. It has been said in the White Paper by means of statistics that this problem is very negligible in comparison with the problems related to jobs, education and health. The matter of insurgency in the State is directly related with the two international borders — India-Bangladesh and India-Bhutan. BTC member Afjal Haque Sarkar said that both these border should be completely sealed. Weapons come to Assam even through Bhutan. According to an English daily, after 10 years of its exclusion from South Bhutan, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) under the leadership of Paresh Baruah is again trying to form their den in Assam. That is why along with Indo- Bangladesh, the Indo-Bhutan border should also be sealed. The violence that erupted in July has now been buried, but the impact that it left behind is very terrible. Until the immigrants and violence affected people do not return to their native places and resettle there, then peace cannot be established.
The Muslim immigrants celebrated this year’s Eid-Bakreid in the camps of Dhubri,
Chirang and Kokrajhar. The winter season is coming. The maximum number of people in these camps stay in the classrooms and courtyards of educational organisations, but neither is there bedding, nor are there lavatories/toilets and nor is there water for drinking and washing. There is shortage of utensils for cooking and eating and also of clothing. The condition of the children, women and elders is very miserable.
Several Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind, Jamiat Ahle Hadees Hind and All India Milli Council (AIMC) came forward to combat these situations. The non-Muslim organisations are also doing appreciable work. But it is very astonishing that some people do not like all these activities. Concerns have been expressed in a report that many fundamentalist organisations are trying to establish themselves in Assam by helping the immigrants through rehabilitation, relief and cash. According to a Governmental source, among the 15 organisations mentioned in the report, 12 are Muslim organisations and the remaining 3 are Hindu fundamentalist organisations.
The problems of the Bodos and non-Bodos are related with the Bodo treaties, firstly in 1993 and then in 2003. In 2003, during the tenure of the NDA Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Congress and other parties with the help of 2/3 majority amended the Constitution and formed the BTC. There are 34 types of tribals in Assam, in which the number of Bodos is the highest. That is why a distinct Bodoland Territorial Council was formed and they were assured that if their population becomes 50 per cent, then they can get the status of a State. The fact is well known that the population of Bodos in the BTAD is 27 per cent and the population of non-Bodos and Muslims is 73 per cent. Analysts believe that due to this reason the Muslims, Santhals and non-Bodoss were displaced from time to time, so that they can achieve that target. Ex-Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Aziz Mushabber Ahmadi believed that the clause for providing the status of a State for having 50 per cent population mentioned in the treaty is totally undemocratic.
Among the 46 members of the BTC, 34 are Bodos and 12 are non-Bodos, in which there are only 2 Muslims who have any relation with the Congress, one is Afjal Haque Sarkar of Fakiragram (Kokrajhar) and another is Khalilur Rahman of Bijni (Chirang). The non-Bodos realise that although they have 73 per cent population but still their representation at different levels of the BTAD and BTC is very little. The population of Christians in Bodo is noteworthy. A convention was organised at the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) with the efforts of AIMC and NCCI on 22 September. A Theme Paper and a resolution based on 11 points were passed in that convention, in which the return of the immigrants to their native place and full resolution of the problem were demanded. These efforts made by the Muslims and the Christians are been noticed in a positive way at the State and national level. It is expected that the communal harmony between the Bodos and the Muslims will soon get solidity.

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